Movie Review: Akira – A Gritty Woman Centric Movie!

AR Murugadoss is the first director who gave started the 100 crore club with his debut Hindi movie Ghajini way back in 2008. He continued his successful stint again with Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty starring Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha. In this week’s release, ARM presents a gritty woman-centric movie Akira starring Sonakshi Sinha. Frankly speaking this time again, ARM does not disappoint. Yes, I do agree it is not in the mould of Ghajini or Holiday, however, he brings to life a real life situation that could be faced by anybody.

Based on Tamil movie Mouna Guru, Akira starts with the voice introduction of Akira Sharma (Sonakshi Sinha) by Sub-Inspector of Police Rabia (Konkona Sen Sharma). The movie goes back in time when Akira is a kid living with her parents in Jodhpur. One day she witnesses an acid attack while returning from school and she testifies against the culprit. This tragic incident encourages her deaf and mute father (Atul Kulkarni) to enroll her for the martial arts classes. The guys against whom she had testified catches her one day to teach her a lesson and in the ambush accidently she throws acid on one of them. As a result, she is sent to a remand home for three years.

Once she is out of the remand home, her brother urges her and their mother to go with him to Mumbai. Reluctantly she leaves for Mumbai and gets enrolled in a college.

There is a parallel story happening in the interim wherein corrupt ACP Rane (Anurag Kashyap) and his three trusted aides come across a car accident victim. When they try to help the victim, one of his aides find a bag filled with notes. Finding it as an opportunity to get rich instantly, they kill the victim. Unknowingly, Akira gets involved in the case and finds herself locked in a mental asylum. What happens to her is the rest of the story.

This is Sonakshi’s best performance till date. She lives the character of Akira and convincingly plays the part of an action lady. The way she fights, her body language, dialogue delivery, facial expressions, everything shows how diligently she worked hard to play this role. Anurag Kashyap as ACP Rane is too good. He delivers his part in the villainous role and is a sheer delight to watch. Konkona Sen Sharma in a brief role of Inspector Rabia is quite delightful. However, the part where she plays a heavily pregnant lady does not do any justice to the entire plot. It looks like a forced fit. In the supporting cast, Raai Laxmi, Amit Sadh, Smita Jayakar, Atul Kulkarni and the guy you played the transvestite have done justice to their parts.

Director AR Murugadoss does a fine job. I will not call it as his finest product, however, he does deliver a decent product. Story by Santha Kumar and screenplay by Santha Kumar & AR Murugadoss is good, although they have taken a lot of cinematic liberties, but no complaints there. However, the climax could have been better. Being an action movie, the fight sequences are good but very few. Dialogues are average and music by Vishal-Shekar is plain okay. If you look at it, there is no scope for music in this action packed movie. Background score by John Stewart Eduri is mind-blowing. Editing could have been crisper.

On the whole, I would say Akira delivers and with word of mouth publicity this small budget woman-centric movie should appeal to it’s target audience.

My Verdict: ***

10 Best Movies of 2015!

As the year 2015 is coming to an end, it’s time for us to look back and see the best movies of 2015. Statutory Warning: This is my opinion and it might differ from yours therefore please do not crucify me 😉

This year belonged to the letter ‘B’.  Most of the movies which had a title starting with the letter ‘B’ eg: Baby, Badlapur, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Baahubali, Bajirao Mastani etc. surprisingly not only did well at the Box Office but also garnered critical acclaim. So here we go.

Baby

Baby: One of the first movies to release in 2015 starring Akshay Kumar and Tapsee Pannu was a winner with the masses and the critics. Directed by Neeraj Pandey who had earlier directed A Wednesday and Special 26, this spy action thriller had some breathtaking stunts and edge of the seat moments. This songless movie made at a budget of Rs.58 crores set the ball rolling for Akshay Kumar and earned few crores short of Rs.100 Crores.

Badlapur

Badlapur: This Varun Dhawan revenge drama with some soulful music was released one week after the Valentine’s Day. Badlapur not only gave Sriram his first hit after Ek Haseena Thi, Johnny Gaddar and Agent Vinod but also gave Varun a major image makeover, who has always been associated with candy floss romances in the past. This Sriram Raghavan directed movie had some high power performances from actors like Nawazuddin Siddique, Huma Qureshi, Divya Dutta and Radhika Apte. Made on a budget of Rs.25 Crores, this action crime thriller earned around Rs.77 Crores at the Box Office.

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Dum Laga Ke Haisha: This Ayushmann Khurrana – Bhumi Pednekar romantic comedy from YRF was one of the surprise hits of the year. Set in 1995, the movie tells the story of a loser who gets married to a fat girl against his wishes and how during the course of their marital journey they fall in love with each other. A simple story that not only won big hearts but also big money for the producers. This Sharat Katariya movie made at a budget of Rs.15 Crores (inclusive of Print and Publicity) earned around Rs.45 Crores net at the Box Office.

NH!)

NH10: The shy ‘Taaniji’ from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi turned producer with this movie and also went out of her comfort zone to do a slasher thriller revolving around her character. The plot inspired from the English movie Eden Lake tells the story of a couple whose road trip goes for a toss after a chance encounter with a group of violent criminals who kill their sister and her lover in the name of honour killing. This Navdeep Singh directed movie garnered a lot of critical acclaim for Sharma and the masses also loved the movie making it a sleeper hit at the Box Office. Made on a budget of Rs.13 Crores, NH10 made Rs.33 Crores at the Box Office.

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Baahubali – The Beginning: This is one of the rarest cases in Indian cinema where a dubbed movie made more than Rs.100 Crores at the Box Office. Directed by the hugely talented SS. Rajamouli this epic historical fiction movie is first of the two parts. Starring Prabhas and Rana Daggubatti as two warring brothers fighting for control of an ancient Indian kingdom Maheshmati, this movie was an answer to Hollywood productions such as Game of Thrones and 300. The movie not only broke records within India but also internationally. Made at a budget of Rs.120 Crores the movie made Rs.600 Crores worldwide, breaking all language barriers. The second part Baahubali – The Conclusion is one of the most awaited movies of 2016.

bajrangi-bhaijaan

Bajrangi Bhaijaan: Salman Khan starrers are a huge pull during Eid every year. However, 2015 Eid was special not only for Salman Khan but also to his fans as one of his career best movies released with a thundering response at the Box Office. This emotional drama directed by Kabir Khan tells the story of Pawan (Khan) a simpleton and an ardent devotee of Hanuman who finds a mute Pakistani girl (Harshali) separated from her family during her visit to India. He embarks on a journey to unite the kid with her family back in Pakistan. Also starring Kareena Kapoor and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bajrangi Bhaijaan made at a budget of Rs.90 Crores and produced by Salman Khan, garnered around Rs.324 Crores net in India while its worldwide collection was to the tune of Rs.625 Crores.

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Tanu Weds Manu Returns: This Kangana Ranaut-Madhavan sequel to 2011’s surprise hit Tanu Weds Manu was one of the much awaited movies of the year. Like its prequel, this Aanand L. Rai musical-romcom high on performances did very well at the Box Office. Kangana Ranaut in her career’s first double role as Dattu and Tanu won the hearts of the viewers apart from giving one of her career-best performances. After last year’s Queen, Kangana proved once again that she is one actor who do not need a Khan, Kapoor or Kumar to give a Box Office hit. Give her a good script and see her transform in front of the camera. Tanu Weds Manu is the only woman oriented movie made in India that has earned over Rs.150 Crores. The total budget of the movie was Rs.15 Crores.

Talvar

Talvar: This Meghana Gulzar movie was based on the 2008 Noida double murder case, in which a teenage girl and her family servant were found murdered, and her parents were convicted for the murders. The movie not only revived the case but also showed the investigation flaws conducted by the Police Department and CBI. The movie starring  Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Neeraj Kabi and Sohum Shah in leading roles garnered critical as well as box office acclaim. Made at a budget of Rs.15 Crores the movie made almost Rs.30 Crores at the Box Office.

Tamasha

Tamasha: This Ranbir-Deepika movie directed by Imtiaz Ali attracted a lot of debate. Some liked the movie, some hated it while some didn’t understand the story at all. Like all Imtiaz Ali movies this one was also an emotional tale that narrates the story of Ved (Ranbir) who loses his self by living according to the social conventions expected of him unless he is reintroduced to himself by Tara (Deepika). Made at a budget of Rs.60 Crores this movie made Rs.106 Crores worldwide.

BM

Bajirao-Mastani: The long in the making Sanjay Leela Bhansali dream epic released along with Shahrukh-Kajol hyped movie Dilwale. Minus the original cast of Salman-Aishwarya-Rani, this movie will go down in the history of Indian movies as one of the most well made and stylish movies after Mughal-E-Azam. High on performance and critical acclaim, this Ranveer Singh-Deepika-Priyanka movie was the best way to close a year filled with lot of cinematic surprises. Made on a budget of Rs. 120 Crores this movie has already made Rs.128 Crores at the box office and it is still going strong.

Movie Review: Talvar – This sword is sharper than a pen!

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This week the releases were as different as chalk and cheese. On one hand if Akshay Kumar entertained us with ‘Singh Is Bliing‘ then on the other hand Meghana Gulzar’s take on Arushi-Hemraj murder case, Talvar made us think twice about the justice system in our country.

Coming to the story. Talvar is based on the Noida double murder case which caught the headlines few years ago. Konkona and Neeraj Kabi play the victim’s parents while Irfan Khan plays an investigation office from CDI (Central Department of Investigation). Like the 1950 Japanese film Rashomon, Talvar presents three contradictory accounts of the case, which variously portray the parents as guilty or innocent.

There have been several crime shows on TV in the past that tried to replicate the Arushi murder case. There was also a movie by Manish TiwariRahasya loosely based on the same case, but the way Meghana brings out the story and shows the nakedness of our country’s police investigation system and judiciary system is applaud worthy.

Konkana and Neeraj Kabi as the accused in the double murder case puts in a very sensitive performance. Each and every emotion has been wrung out by the director from all her actors. Irfan Khan as usual fits into his character easily and delivers a power packed performance. Tabu in a cameo is quite effective. Prakash Belawadi and other supporting actors have done a great job.

In this movie the real king is Vishal Bharadwaj’s script. The dialogues are quite impressive and the background music is quite gripping. Music does not have much scope in this movie and therefore it is not something you are looking forward to.

On the whole it is a nice gripping thriller with a sharp edge.

My Verdict: ****

Chai With Shai Xclusive: Shah Rukh should show some inclination towards alternate productions – Anant Mahadevan

If there is one director who has learnt the art of balancing Art cinema with Commercial potboilers in India, then it is none other than Anant Mahadevan. He is one director who I believe follows his heart and makes movies around subjects that he believes in without caring about its Box Office results. Case in point are movies like Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Dil Maange More, Aksar, Staying Alive, Xpose, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal and Gour Hari Dastaan among others. It is a proud moment for me as I am blessed to interview my favorite actor-director Anant Mahadevan today over a cup of chai and cookies. Here is an excerpt of our intense chat.

Anant

On the onset Anantji let me congratulate you on Gour Hari Dastaan. It was one of the most sincere movies I saw this year. How did the idea take shape?
(Smiles) Das’ story in a tabloid set me thinking about the “absurdity” of the drama. A man having to fight for an identity in his own country…a country he had helped to free. Why was this country living in a constant state of denial and untruth? Was the freedom that Das fought for abused and corrupted? The man opened up several layers to ponder about and translate into cinema that was at once a personal account and a political statement.

Right… So, how did your journey with Bollywood start?
I was self-tutored in the arts, particularly cinema. The film society and festival screenings exposed me to the work of masters from Europe, Asia and the Americas. But it wasn’t easy to start off making the films one wanted to make. I often wish I had started with Staying Alive and then gone on to Red Alert, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, Gour Hari Dastaan and now Rough Book and Life is Good. But like they say, the brook has to flow through marshy land to open up into the river. I had to bide my time. Mainstream cinema helped me to get recognition and contacts.

In Bollywood you either see mainstream commercial movies or independent art movies. It is rare or I must say unheard of a director like you whose movie repertoire has a mix of both hard-core commercial potboilers as well as simple artistic movies. How do you balance it out?
I don’t know whether that is something to be proud of (throwing his hands in the air)Mainstream cinema often demands compromises and you wind up being dissatisfied at the end of it all. Like I said, it was some sort of pre-requisite to bring in the kind of cinema I was yearning to do. In the process I got this tag of being at home with “mainstream” and “independent” cinema. How I wish mainstream cinema would permit more sensibilities so that one could emulate a Billy Wilder, Scorcese or Spielberg who are the people who have pulled off both worlds so well (smiles).

You are one of the most talented actors in our industry. I have seen how well you own a character and turn yourself into that character eg: The villainous role in Khiladi, the fatherly roles in several movies, the comic role in Ghar Jamai etc. then why do we see so less of you in movies as an actor?
I have had my fill of blockbuster movies like Khiladi, Baazigar, Ishq, Baadshah, Gardish et al. They gave me some fine screen time and I still enjoy the adulation… But currently the scene tends to marginalize actors like me who want to sink their teeth into something substantial. Television has become a cruel joke and popular cinema ends up making you look redundant. So, I have to wait patiently for a Papanaasam to come and whet my appetite (smiles). I would now want to work with the masters of regional cinema like Shaji Karun or Buddadheb Das Gupta and others, and portray some memorable characters.

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How did the Papanasam role come to you?
Kamal Haasan, after what seemed an eternity, called to find out if I would be interested to do a bilingual in Vishwaroopam 2. We had a great time filming it and the bonding strengthened. So when he recommended me for Uttama Villain, I was cursing my luck as I was shooting for Xpose in Mumbai on the same dates. But Kamal didn’t hold that against me. He along with director Jeetu Joseph who had made the original Drishyam cast me in the pivotal role of the boy’s father. Papanaasam brought me some of my best critical acclaim as an actor and I am grateful for that (smiles).

I loved your character in Papanasam (smiles) you brought in a different persona to the role which was quite different from what Siddique did in the original.
Thank you (smiles).

Any interesting incidents you can narrate while working with Kamal Hasanji in Vishwaroopam 2 and Papanasam?
Kamal would so gracefully prepare coffee for me from the percolator he carried with him and then discussions over life and cinema would begin. He had so much to share and lunch breaks were brainstorming sessions. There was this wonderful vibe between us… the thirst to discuss everything under the sun. That was so different from the Hindi film scene where only gossip dominates amidst actors (smiles).

You have worked with Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan whom did you enjoy working with?
I had more screen time and off-screen time with Shah Rukh. Baazigar, Baadshah and Yes Boss were three films I did with him. I then went on to direct his first fiction series for television Ghar Ki Baat Hai produced under Red Chillies’ Idiot Box.

With Aamir it was a guest appearance in Akele Hum Akele Tum where we enjoyed playing chess between shots, and the rather lacklustre Mann. So I guess Shah Rukh takes the bigger share of the pie (laughs). If only he showed some inclination towards substantial alternate productions, I could have shot some interesting films as director for his company. But I guess the commercial wave let loose by people around him will never let that happen (frowns).

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The music in all your commercial movies have been chartbusters. How much do you contribute in your movie’s music or is it left to the music composers to come up with their own compositions?
I have a great affinity for music and melody is a trait I always cherish. Having devoured the great compositions of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, I was quite rigid about the best possible compositions from the mind of a music director for my films. I was lucky to get the rights to recreate Panchamda’s works in my debut Dil Vil Pyar Vyar while Himmesh came up with some lovely romantic melodies and toe-tapping numbers in Dil Maange More and Aksar. So did Anu Malik who recreated the Rajasthan ethos in Anamika. Sometimes I miss making musicals, but now I must not succumb to the formula again (smiles).

Out of all the actors you have directed in your movies, who is your favorite?
It would be tough to answer that. Suniel Shetty worked really hard in Red Alert, though it is Vinay Pathak who has me applauding each time I watch Gour Hari Dastaan-The Freedom File. The thought and work behind the portrayal of Das could open up an entire master’s class, though some critics displayed their utter lack of understanding of an actor’s preparation and pitching, and misread the whole performance.

Mee Sindhutai Sapkal gave you 4 National Awards, however Gour Hari Dastaan did not even get nominated for any. Any thoughts?
The 4 National awards for Mee Sindhutai Sapkal reinstated my faith in things working on merit in this country. But I was dismayed, to say the least, that Gour Hari Dastaan did not fetch even an award for maestros like Resul Pookutty and Dr L Subramaniam this year, forget Vinay Pathak! (pause) Did it not deserve even to be the best Hindi film, if not anything else? It was a real shocker but I have grown out of it and conditioned myself not to expect anything in future even if I have created a highly rewarding slice of cinema.

How difficult is it to tell a story of a living personality?
A tough call (frowns). You have your task cut out. The challenge is to steer clear of a documentary, yet dramatize the life without taking too much licences. Of late making biopics has become a sensational joke in Hindi cinema. The character is exploited within the parameters of the formula and tom-tomed as a true story. Both in Sindhutai Sapkal and Gour Hari Das’ cases I was extra cautious to recreate the lives without resorting to clichés and melodrama. And specially when dealing with a living person, the research and approach has to be just right.

rough book tannishtha amaan

Are you directing Xpose 2?
No Xpose 2 is not on the cards.

You have the distinction of giving Emraan Hashmi the first hit outside Bhatt camp. How was it working with Emraan?
Emraan is quite a trooper. He had the guts to say “yes” to a character that dies three-fourth into a film where the villain [Dino Morea] walks away with murder. He was a real professional who enjoyed his moments before the camera and was totally devoid of tantrums or attitude.

How comfortable were you while directing a Marathi movie? Any challenges you faced during the shoot of Sindhutai Sapkal?
Marathi has been a second language right from my school days, so the comfort levels were bang-on. Of course changing the style of Marathi actors to a more natural tone was the task, and I had to make them shed their sing-song dialogue delivery. But the filming was one of the best experiences I had and the rawness of the subject was appreciated worldwide.

You have worked in both Tollywood and Bollywood. What is the major difference you saw in both industries?
I have only worked as an actor in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, I hate those “wooden” nicknames (irritated) they are a disciplined lot and take their schedules seriously. In many ways far more organised than the Hindi film scene where laptops and emails are passed off as hectic prep activity.

ghd vinay,tannishtha,ranvir

So what are your future projects as an actor as well as a director?
ROUGH BOOK (excitedly), a gritty analysis of the education scene in India is my new film and all set to be theatrically screened soon. Principals, teachers and educationists who have seen previews are recommending it to scores of parents and students and I am hoping that the film becomes a cult film for youth. There is also another major biopic I am working on now after Rough Book.

Okay (smiles)… Anantji we have a small fun segment in Chai With Shai where I will ask you few questions and you have to reply in one word.
Great! (smiles)

So brace yourself…here is the first question (winks) Himesh Reshamiyya as an actor or music director?
Music Director

Even I would agree to it (smiles)… Which is your favorite movie Sindhu Tai Sapkal or Gour Hari Dastaan?
Gour Hari Dastaan, because it made me grow as a director

Okay here comes a difficult one (rubbing my hands) pick your favorite movie amongst Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Dil Maange More, Aksar and Xpose.
(smiles) Dil Vil Pyar Vyar

Konkona Sen or Tejaswini Pandit?
Both a class of their own

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Tollywood Err…. (pauses) South Indian Movies or Hindi Movies?
The South (chuckles),

Who is the most promising star among the younger lot?
Rajkumar Rao

That was fast (smiles)… Okay, your all-time favorite movie?
A Separation [Iran]

If given a choice which old classic would you like to remake?
No remakes for me (waving his hand)…Victoria 203 is a lesson learnt (laughs)

Which book would you like to ever adapt into a movie?
The book that scientist Nambinarayan has just written on the ISRO scandal. In fact am already doing it (smiles).

Last not the least, any advice to your fans?
This is not a career which is a last resort…education, passion, perseverance and resistance to temptation are the key-words (smiles).

Well said Sir, I am sure most of the youngsters will definitely take your advice seriously and act upon it. Thank you so much for being a part of my chat series, looking forward to many more straight-from-the-heart movies from you in the future.

Good Bye!